We’ve had a real foodie time of it recently and this salad reflects that. Not only have I picked up some amazing produce at Ludlow and Beaumaris Food Festivals, but I have also been inspired by the chefs I’ve met. This is a salad that is caught between summer and autumn, quite apt in September. It’s also caught somewhere between a restaurant table and home kitchen. Do not fear, all of the these ingredients are easily interchangeable and there is only a few, quick, prep steps.
This dish is a looker and is something you could serve at dinner party and it would go down a treat. Its full of bold flavours and the Aronia berry vinegar really lights things up. Like all salads, its a perfect way of expressing gorgeous produce. We have made these portions main course size, but you could easily scale things down and serve as a starter.
I think this is the best way to cook beetroots. Although my mind does change often. I also love charring citrus. Aine Carlin reminded me how cool charring citrus can be with this simple and delicious dessert recipe ‘Cashew Cream and Griddled Oranges’. Check it out on youtube. Aine’s new cookbook is out soon, which is very exciting news.
WHAT’S A COBNUT THEN?
Basically its a hazelnut. This is the perfect time of year to pick them up and when they are fresh and young, they are plump and have a light, creamy taste and a texture similar to coconut. They are lighter than a hazelnut when roasted and something that is well worth a try. Cobnuts were only introduced to the UK in the 19 th century and they are famously from Kent. In this salad they bring crunch and richness. Use them as you would use a hazelnut.
We met a lovely group of people at Beaumaris, Beri Da, who are growing Aronia berries in the next valley from us. Incredible to think that these things are happening so close and you miss them! We have tried a lot of food and nibbles over this weekend, but some really stand out. Beri Da is certainly one of them. Everything they produce is delicious and something a little different.
Beri Da is a small family ran business and you can read more about their story here. Aronia berries are like blueberries but more intense and packed with even more antioxidants and good stuff. They are native to North America but are increasingly being grown in the UK. They are thriving near Mount Snowdon and the guys have just planted even more bushes at the base of the mountain. A very scenic place for superfoods to grow!
The Aronia vinegar we bought is very intense, fruity and fragrant. A little goes a long way. We also have some chutney made with beetroot which is just too good to eat right now. We need to hide it away and dream about it for a while. Its fair to say that Aronia berries are going down well in the BHK. We are hoping to pop over and help with the next harvest, I’m not sure how many berries are going to make the basket!
I’m going to write more about the brilliant producers we met over the weekend in our next post. I’ll also let you know how our first cooking demo’s and book signings went at food festivals. We started at one of the biggest and surely one of the best, Ludlow. It was a blast!
If you haven’t voted in Vegfest 2015’s massive vegan poll, tututututututututttttt! There are loads of vegan products, authors, suppliers etc to be voted for. You’ll find ‘Peace & Parsnips’ in the ‘Best Vegan Cookbook’ catergory along with a host of other excellent plant based cookbooks. The Vegfest is like the vegan Oscar’s and we’ll be down there doing a cooking demo. Is going to be HUGE! Exciting stuff.
Lets get cooking……
When frying the beetroots you can use any fruit vinegar, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry etc but all will be different. Some sweeter, some more potent. You just need to taste and adjust accordingly. For frying the beetroots you can also use balsamic vinegar and save your precious fruit vinegar for the dressing.
If you chargrill the grapefruit for too long, they will begin to fall apart. Keep it to roughly a minute each side, we’re just looking for a few nice griddle marks to add a smokiness to the citrus flavours. Its well worth the little extra hassle.
I have added avocado for a little bit of richness, but you could easily use cashew cheese or even well drained and marinated tofu.
Our Aronia berry vinegar is very potent, you may need to add more fruit vinegar to balance the dressing nicely. It should be quite tart with good acidity and a nice twist of sweetness.
The rapeseed oil we use here is good quality, single press, made like olive oil-type stuff. The flavour is sensational and we are loving Blodyn Aur or Bennett and Dunn. Both excellent and part of a new wave of quality rapeseed oil producers in the UK.
This recipe makes just enough dressing. Double the quantity if you’d like extra to be served on the table.
The Bits – For 4
6 medium beetroots (scrubbed and trimmed)
1 small cucumber (peeled and cut in 1/2 moons)
1 ruby grapefruit (peeled and cut into 1cm slices across)
2 handfuls de-shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts (toasted)
8 big handfuls beetroot leaves or spinach/ chard leaves (finely sliced, chop the stems too and keep separate for garnish)
1 avocado (peeled and cut into small chunks)
2 radish (thinly sliced)
2 big handful basil leaves
1 tbs rapeseed oil
2 teas aronia berry vinegar or other fruit vinegar (balsamic will do)
Aronia Berry Dressing
2 teas aronia vinegar (or other fruit vinegar)
3 tbs rapeseed oil
1/2 lemon juice
In a saucepan, cover the beetroots with water and add 1/2 teas salt, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Pop lid on and cook for 45 minutes. Remove the beetroots with a slotted spoon, keep the cooking broth to drink or use as a colourful stock. Pop the beets back in the pan and pop the lid back on.
Make the dressing by whisking everything together (with a fork if you like) in a small bowl.
Grab a griddle pan and very lightly oil, place on a high heat. When hot pop the grapefruit slices on. Leave to cook for a minute, they don’t take long. Flip them over using a thin spatula and cook for a minute on the other side. Now do the same with your cucumber slices. One minute each side. Set aside.
Peel the skin off the beetroots (you may like to wear clean marigolds or other plastic gloves for this job). Using a teaspoon helps to bring the skin away from the beet. Cut the beetroots in half lengthways and then each half into four even pieces. Warm the oil in a frying pan and fry the beetroots for 10 minutes, turning them regularly. You should get some nice colour on them. Add the vinegar and toss the beetroots to cover with vinegar, this will help them caramelise nicely. Cook for 2 minutes and they’re ready to go.
On large plates, scatter the leaves and top with grapefruit, cucumber, cobnuts, beetroots, avocado, sprinkle over the sliced beetroot roots, radish and basil, drizzle liberally with dressing.
Best served when the beetroots are still warm. We had ours with some steamed whole grains (millet, green lentils and buckwheat) tossed in a little lemon juice and rapeseed oil.
Nuts are good for you. Very good for you. Little nutritional powerhouses they are. Cobnut kernels contain 17% protein by dry weight, and about 15% fibre. Cobnuts are rich in vitamin E and calcium. They also contain vitamin B1 and B6. Not bad!